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The complexities of defining optimal sleep : empirical and theoretical considerations with a special emphasis on children
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Sarah BlundenSarah Blunden, B Galland
The main aim of this paper is to consider relevant theoretical and empirical factors defining optimal sleep, and assess the relative importance of each in developing a working definition for, or guidelines about, optimal sleep, particularly in children. We consider whether optimal sleep is an issue of sleep quantity or of sleep quality. Sleep quantity is discussed in terms of duration, timing, variability and dosee response relationships. Sleep quality is explored in relation to continuity, sleepiness, sleep architecture and daytime behaviour. Potential limitations of sleep research in children are discussed, specifically the loss of research precision inherent in sleep deprivation protocols involving children. We discuss which outcomes are the most important to measure. We consider the notion that insufficient sleep may be a totally subjective finding, is impacted by the age of the reporter, driven by socio-cultural patterns and sleep-wake habits, and that, in some individuals, the driver for insufficient sleep can be viewed in terms of a costebenefit relationship, curtailing sleep in order to perform better while awake. We conclude that defining optimal sleep is complex. The only method of capturing this elusive concept may be by somnotypology,taking into account duration, quality, age, gender, race, culture, the task at hand, and an individual’s position in both sleepealert and morningnesse eveningness continuums. At the experimental level, a unified approach by researchers to establish standardized protocols to evaluate optimal sleep across paediatric age groups is required.